This is really the story of the ‘little school that could.’
Timothy Christian School was founded 50 years ago just outside the community of Williamsburg, in the heart of South Dundas farming country. Through struggles, set backs and challenges, the independent school has persevered, grown and thrived.
The weekend of June 28-30, 2013, the Timothy Christian School family, past and present, are gathering to celebrate its rich history and faith based heritage. “Celebrating a half century of Christian education in our community is very special,” said Art Pol, chair of the board of directors of the school. “Our anniversary committee was formed last year, and they have been intently planning a weekend filled with all kinds of celebrations. Graduates, current students, families and friends are all invited to join our reunion.”
On June 6, I had the opportunity to sit down with Timothy Christian School’s very busy principal (grade eight graduation is just ahead, as well as the reunion celebrations) to talk about the history of the school, and the faith tenets on which it is based.
Gary Postma is the fourth principal the school has had since its founding.
“Our first principal was Mrs. Schaillee,” he said, “and she led us from 1963 to about 1966. Until the early ‘70s Mr. Hank Jensen was principal. Mr. Jim Kooistra took over in the mid ‘70s and was principal until 1992. Then I came in. My wife and I were actually from Toronto, and I took a position at this small school originally because we wanted a short break from city life. Well,” Postma laughed, “we fell in love with the school, the community, everything. Our ‘few years’ has turned into two decades.”
Origins of the school
“Following World War II, many Dutch left a Holland suffering from years of Occupation, and able to offer only limited opportunities. Immigrants arrived in the Williamsburg area in the early 1950s. Within two years, these Dutch farm families built their first wooden church. Two years after that, they came to the decision that a school was needed. From the outset, they wanted kids to lean into life with Church and school linked.
These were not wealthy families by any means. Timothy Christian began in 1963 with 30 or so students in two borrowed classrooms in Dixons Corners School, then moved to space in the Christian Reformed Church. Money was eventually raised, and in 1969, the present site on County Road 18 was opened. Farming families, many of them dairy farmers, were the backbone of our early school.
Like a lot of Christian schools, we started small, but we grew.”
Curriculum and Christian networking
“We teach based on faith development and try to find connections between learning and faith.
We are not ‘run’ by the Christian Reformed Church. Several different churches and denominations support us, and we gladly welcome all Christians into our school. We believe that this is a school for parents who want an education that honours God and brings glory to Jesus Christ.
Our school board is made up of seven members, many of them parents, who must be elected by the school’s membership at two major meetings a year. The board acts as trustees who maintain the overall mission of the school and its bylaws.
Timothy Christian is a charter member of the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools, out of Hamilton, Ontario, and we are also tied to Christian Schools International, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a world wide umbrella of Christian schools.
These organizations, as well as the Ontario Ministry of Education, are the sources of most of our curriculum. And the Ontario School Information System ensures the safety and security of our students and building.
We receive lots of curriculum guides. As teachers we study the curriculum requirements over all, using those parts of the guides that can help us to bring Biblical concepts into our lessons.
We want to ensure that faith is always a component of learning. For example, we might look at a teaching unit in this manner: God has blessed Ontario with many rich, natural resources. What are they? How have we managed them? Have we acted as ‘good stewards’?
Teachers at Timothy Christian all hold Ontario teaching certificates and Christian School Teachers Certificates. We require both to teach here.
Our staff is a lot younger now than it was even 10 years ago, but it’s good to have new ideas and fresh approaches, and an influx of new talent into our classrooms. Some of our staff are themselves graduates of Timothy Christian.
“We had about 30 students in our original school. Around 15 years ago, we hit our maximum enrollment of 172 full time students.
But the reality is that the demographics of our community have changed over the years. Families don’t have the same number of children any more. A number of farms have been sold, and children are less likely to be on the land, or may have moved away. About 10 years ago, we faced serious financial challenges.We had to make some difficult choices.
We just could no longer afford the high costs to run busses to the school; that hard decision unquestionably cost us some students whose families could not get their children to us without busses. And we also had to reduce the tuition assistant component of our finances: the costs of subsidizing some tuitions was just too high. We lost pupils.
However, we are on solid financial ground these days and many parents arranged alternative ways to get to us.
Currently we have 63 students, with a hope to reach 80, and have experienced steady growth in the last eight years. We receive no government funding at all. Tuition fees, fund raisers like our March Bazaar, and income from Timmy’s Place bring us our operating funds.”
“Timothy was a partner with Paul in spreading the gospel throughout the world, and our founders wanted that idea commemorated in the name of their school. We are really looking forward to celebrating 50 wonderful years of Timothy Christian School. Everyone is excited. Teachers and former students and families are all coming to our June 28-30 50th anniversary reunion.”